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After West
James Harms

Carnegie Mellon Poetry Series

Carnegie Mellon
2008 • 80 pp. 5 1/2 x 8 1/2"
Poetry / Poetry - American

$15.95 Paperback, 978-0-88748-481-0

A collection of poems by James Harms.

The title of James Harms’ latest collection, After West, is both deliberately nonsensical and assertively plain: west is a direction, there is nothing after it; but west is also a concept, a symbol that means all that it ever has, and yet seems suddenly, and oddly, imprecise. As a native Californian now living in West Virginia, Harms is fascinated and frustrated by the way contemporary American culture has rechanneled and reinvented the frontier spirit, an aspect of our national identity that has clearly evolved from the literal to the metaphorical. In these poems he enacts a verbal response to the condition of change, (perhaps the central anxiety of our culture) which might be best observed in the laboratory of California, where the spirit of exploration reached a geological endpoint, and where it now confronts a sea of ennui and paranoia instead of the actual Pacific.

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Reviews / Endorsements

"From his first book, Modern Ocean, I have been a sucker for the poems of James Harms, with their dual, dueling religions of friendship and loneliness. His poems are newfangled and old-fashioned at once—old and young, hip yet romantic, enormously sympathetic to human nature, yet nuanced and truthfully observant. Like the piano melodies of Eric Satie, the poems seem meandering improvisations; yet they capture deep swirls of experience with a stylish, secretly witty precision. Big, funny, sad, intensely artful,—After West is Harms’ most ambitious book yet."—Tony Hoagland

"James Harms is one of the truly visionary and restless voices of our time. These poems move back and forth across the landscape transforming the ordinary sights—the Blue Moose Cafe, the neighbor's cat—into darkly exalting insights. In a language both completely familiar, as if spoken across the table by a friend, and also heightened and musical enough to contain the complexity of its subjects, Harms' poetry recovers and beautifies the past, and eerily foretells the future. These are the places you've been and failed to see. In this stunning new collection, James Harms takes you again—strange prophet, guide and agent of history—to the 'flecks of time/scattered like wreckage through the rooms . . .'"—Laura Kasischke

"At the noisy fiesta of contemporary American poetry, James Harms refuses to speak in tongues, wear a goofy hat, or drink upside-down tequila shots. Elegiac and celebratory by turn, his coolly meditative poems offer up smart and lyrical commentaries upon contemporary social scenes, and manage to make large points without ever raising their voices. After West is not just another volume in an important body of work: it is his best book yet."—Campbell McGrath

JAMES HARMS’ awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, three Pushcart Prizes, and the PEN/Revson Fellowship. He lives with his wife, Amanda Cobb, and their children in Morgantown, West Virginia, where he teaches at West Virginia University.

Tue, 15 May 2018 13:14:07 -0500